Green Room

The Pope’s Jews: Rethinking Pius XII

posted at 12:04 pm on February 16, 2013 by

For much of the post-WWII period, Pope Pius XII came under considerable fire for supposedly appeasing Hitler and the Nazis during the war.  Thirteen years ago, a book titled Hitler’s Pope claimed that Pius XII turned his back on Jews due to anti-semitism.  However, a Protestant researcher granted access to Vatican materials has reached a very different conclusion in a book titled The Pope’s Jews: The Vatican’s Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis.  The Guardian profiles the book, author Gordon Thomas, and the network the Vatican put in place (via The Anchoress):

Gordon Thomas, a Protestant, was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before.

The Pope’s Jews. . . details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe’s convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects.

Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy.

During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders – such as Jerusalem’s chief rabbi in 1944 – said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates “are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour”. Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him “a Jew lover”.

However, his image turned sour in the 1960s, thanks to Soviet antagonism towards the Vatican and a German play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, which vilified the pope, accusing him of silence and inaction over the Jews. It was a trend that intensified with the publication of Hitler’s Pope, a book by John Cornwell.

However, as the Vatican’s secretary of state before the war, the future pope contributed to the damning 1937 encyclical of Pius XI, With Burning Anxiety, and, as Pius XII he made condemnatory speeches that were widely interpreted at the time – including by Jewish leaders and newspapers – as clear condemnations of Hitler’s racial policies. Due to the Vatican’s traditionally diplomatic language, the accusation that Pius XII did not speak out has festered.

Professor Ronald J Rychlak, the author of Hitler, the War and the Pope, said: “Gordon Thomas has found primary sources … He has tracked down family members, original documentation and established what really was a universal perception prior to the 1960s. He’s shown what the people at the time – victims, rescuers and villains – all knew: that Pius XII was a great supporter of the victims of the Holocaust.”

Asked why the Vatican had not made the new material available until now or, where stories were known, disseminated them more widely,Thomas said: “The church thinks across centuries. If there’s a dispute for 50 years, so what?”

Given all this week’s events, the timing of the new book seems propitious, especially for the author and publisher.  History takes its own time to unfold, and often touches off bouts of revisionism and re-revisionism.  Thomas appears to have done his homework, and without an ideological or denominational dog in the fight.  I’ll add this to the List Of Books I Want If I Ever Get Time To Read Books Again.

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Where ya been, Ed?
The facts were divulged years ago.
The only ones who still believe in the complicity of Pope Pius XII are bigots and Leftist atheists. Jews too of course since they still claim their leadership had nothing to do with the Cruxifiction.
Try to keep up, willya?
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Where ya been, Ed?

I knew these facts very well. I’m commenting on the fact that they have been presented in a new book by a historian with no dog in the fight. I’m not referring to myself when I say “rethinking.”

Ed Morrissey on February 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Pius XII is honored at Yad Vashem.

Back in the 1950′s Cardinal Mindszenty, in the 60-70′s Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, and others were likewise targeted…to defame the church, to stop the propagation of the Word of Christ, or being of aid and comfort to repressed peoples and nations.

In the 80′s, that same Directorate spent millions to get younger priests in Africa and Latin America on board with the United States being the pillager of the Third World and to counteract anything Reagan tried to do to liberate the oppressed or stop the scourge of communism. Liberation Theology still exists…and we have a sitting President who is an acolyte of the same.

The Soviet’s First Chief Directorate spent millions in overseas propaganda to discredit the Church.

The lasting effects of that effort will be with us for generations.

As for Pius XII…like I said, Pius XII is honored at Yad Vashem.

Does it for me.

coldwarrior on February 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Josyf Slipyj…

Think Shoes of the Fisherman.

coldwarrior on February 16, 2013 at 12:33 PM

I knew these facts very well. I’m commenting on the fact that they have been presented in a new book by a historian with no dog in the fight. I’m not referring to myself when I say “rethinking.”

Ed Morrissey on February 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Though you and I may know the facts very well, I’d venture that most people out there, whether through ignorance or malice, don’t.

I remember very clearly an incident from a college history course, circa 2005. We had just read one of Primo Levi’s books about the Holocaust in Italy and the teaching assistant predictably steered our weekly “conversation” toward the supposed complicity of the Catholic Church, citing the example of “Hitler’s Pope.”

In a room of two dozen allegedly well-educated people, I was the only one who objected. I brought up Pius’s efforts to conceal Jews in convents and monasteries, his authorization of false baptismal documents, the steering of Vatican resources toward protecting Jews. All to no avail. As usually happened when I dared to object to the liberal orthodoxy, I was shouted down by my ever-tolerant peers.

If the truth is ever really to take hold, it will require constant repetition and reinforcement. That’s why I’m glad to see a book like this getting some coverage. I’m of half a mind to send a copy to that TA.

steebo77 on February 16, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Thanks Ed. I remember in catechism school learning of the work that Pius XII did to conceal and liberate Jews. I read somewhere that the “unofficial” count was nearly 200,000. When the Cardinal of The Netherlands spoke out as Pius was urged to it meant the rapid exportation of thousands of Jews. Pius decided to work in darkness and save those he could. Pius XII didn’t need the press to know his actions; it was enough to know that God did.

itsspideyman on February 16, 2013 at 3:55 PM

All I really knew on this subject was that I didn’t know enough to form an opinion. I suspected that the stories of Catholic collaboration were exaggerated, but little more.

Count to 10 on February 16, 2013 at 5:05 PM

I remember when Rabbi Hier of the supposed “Museum of Tolerance” put up an exhibit denouncing Pope Pius as a collaborator with the Germans regarding the extinction of the Jews.

Pope Pius was eulogized upon his death by none other than Golda Meir, President of the State of Israel:

We share the grief of the world over the death of His Holiness Pius XII. During a generation of wars and dissensions, he affirmed the high ideals of peace and compassion. During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims. The life of our time has been enriched by a voice which expressed the great moral truths above the tumults of daily conflicts. We grieve over the loss of a great defender of peace.

This was the Golda Meir who as a young woman was unsuccessful in convincing FDR to take Jewish refugees from the Holocaust — yet another indication of how liberals were (and are) able to separate words and deeds.

unclesmrgol on February 16, 2013 at 5:49 PM

According to The St. Malachy Prophecy of the Popes, Pius XII (106 on the list) was to be the Angelic Shepherd. The recent conclusions of his secret aide to the Jews during WWII is considered to be supporting evidence of the prophecy. Interesting read Ed.

dddave on February 16, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Looks like a good book and as a Catholic, this continuous agitprop slander campaign against Pope Pius XII has been disgusting and tiresome.

workingclass artist on February 16, 2013 at 6:25 PM

As for Pius XII…like I said, Pius XII is honored at Yad Vashem.

Does it for me.

coldwarrior on February 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Interesting. Thanks coldwarrior.

itsspideyman on February 16, 2013 at 7:19 PM

“Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

Knott Buyinit on February 16, 2013 at 7:34 PM

Let the whitewashing of papal history continue.

mythicknight on February 16, 2013 at 9:55 PM

Jews too of course since they still claim their leadership had nothing to do with the Cruxifiction.

Karl Magnus on February 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Got Jews on the brain much?

rokemronnie on February 16, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Let the whitewashing of papal history continue.

mythicknight on February 16, 2013 at 9:55 PM

Since when was correcting lies and other untruths considered whitewashing? There are enough sins that you don’t need to make any up.

philoquin on February 16, 2013 at 10:05 PM

I knew these facts very well. I’m commenting on the fact that they have been presented in a new book by a historian with no dog in the fight. I’m not referring to myself when I say “rethinking.”

Ed Morrissey on February 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

“No dog in the fight” is just another way to say “unbiased.” And I contend there is no such thing as an unbiased historian. None-the-less, I’m glad to see these truths about Pius XII getting more widespread circulation.

Shump on February 16, 2013 at 10:07 PM

mythicknight on February 16, 2013 at 9:55 PM

The Israeli Philharmonic’s historic and unprecedented visit to Rome to perform for Pius XII at the Vatican was a unique Jewish communal gesture of collective recognition and gratitude to a great world leader and friend of the Jewish people for his instrumental role in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

On the day of Pius XII’s death in 1958, Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, cabled the following message of condolence to the Vatican: “We share in the grief of humanity…When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”

Before beginning a concert of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Leonard Bernstein called for a minute of silence “for the passing of a very great man, Pope Pius XII.”

Similar sentiments were expressed in the many tributes and eulogies for Pius by numerous rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, as well as by most of the Israeli press, several of whose readers suggested in open letters that a “Pope Pius XII Forest” be planted in the hills of Judea “in order to perpetuate fittingly the humane services rendered by the late pontiff to European Jewry.”

The campaign of vilification against Pope Pius can be traced to the debut in Berlin in February 1963 of a play, by a young, Protestant, left-wing West German writer and playwright, Rolf Hochhuth.

Resist We Much on February 16, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Karl Magnus on February 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM

False messiahs were a dime a dozen in biblical times. The Jesus was one of many. The Jews had nothing to do with his death, because he wouldn’t have mattered to them.
*Yes, I have returned to Judaism-hopefully this time for good!*

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:27 AM

unclesmrgol on February 16, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Golda was around my age during WWII(might have even been older) so she wasn’t a ‘young’ woman.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:31 AM

unclesmrgol on February 16, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Golda was around my age during WWII(might have even been older) so she wasn’t a ‘young’ woman.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:31 AM

Also-Golda was Israel’s Prime Minister. She was never Her president.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:33 AM

@annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:27 AM

Welcome back! We missed you!

Meryl Yourish on February 17, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Don’t know how I missed this .
Pope Pius XII was a distant relative
and these story’s have run in the
family for years . I remember my grandfather
telling us that this would all come out in time .
Hope it’s now .

Lucano on February 17, 2013 at 11:40 AM

As I wrote, this BS was proven just that several years ago.
We TRADITIONAL Roman Catholics know our history. Sadly, some of you have to relate the facts to a new book? Why? Y’all are late to the party.
I bet y’all cheered on the destroyer of The Church, JPII, too.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Karl Magnus on February 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Karl , I knew this all my life . We didn’t say much about
it because where I grew up there was a lot of prejudice
against Catholics and Italians . Not discussed even in
Catholic schools . Ignorance ran very deep .

Lucano on February 17, 2013 at 11:53 AM

*Yes, I have returned to Judaism-hopefully this time for good!*

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:27 AM

Baruch shuveich! I am truly happy!

Regards from Jerusalem.

Shy Guy on February 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Ed ,
Thank you . I ordered the book .

Lucano on February 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Thanks Ed. As another reader noted, it won’t do anything to convince the liberals and athiests and everyone else who hates Catholics, but it’s great that this book has been published. BTW, I saw your buddy Deacon Greg at 10:00 Mass this morning. He’s a dear friend of mine, and says nice things about you and your wife.

JoAnn

JoAnn1965 on February 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Excellent. I’ll have to pick up a copy of this and check it out. I’ve known some of what Pius XII really did during WWII and have been skeptical of much of the criticisms leveled at him afterwards. It will be nice to read a book defending what he did that also provides original sources. I’m all for criticizing the Church and its leaders when called for, but not through ignorance and lies.

JohnAGJ on February 17, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Pope Pius XII was the last truly great pope, a friend to America and thoroughly outspoken against Socialism/Communism. All popes since have advocated the new wussy war doctrine and have encouraged the world to denigrate America, capitalism, and the fight for Truth. All popes since have aimed at constant surrender, reaching across the aisle to capitulate tradition and principle, and the condoning of Socialism. Let us pray that our next pope is another Pius XII, an advocate of Truth and Liberty, willing to say the hard things that need to be said, and a man that recognizes that Americanism isn’t a heresy but a force for good in the world (contrary to all efforts by the French clergy to demonize us by projecting their own image upon us).

And God bless Texas!

TXJenny on February 17, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Pope Pius XII’s story during WWII would make a wonderful movie, if there were anyone not anti-Catholic enough in Hollywood to make it.

DrAllecon on February 17, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Meryl Yourish on February 17, 2013 at 11:08 AM

My mother died in January. With BOTH my parents now dead, I’ve being doing a lot of thinking.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 8:50 PM

False messiahs were a dime a dozen in biblical times. The Jesus was one of many. The Jews had nothing to do with his death, because he wouldn’t have mattered to them.
*Yes, I have returned to Judaism-hopefully this time for good!*

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:27 AM

For you to call Christ one of many and a dime a dozen is despicable. However you feel today, whether Jewish or Christian, you have behaved shamefully in mocking Christ in such a manner. I hope someday you find the truth and repent your ill-thought ways.

njrob on February 17, 2013 at 9:14 PM

njrob on February 17, 2013 at 9:14 PM

I’ve been Christian off/on since 1996. I married my second(current) husband in a church ceremony. My son(first marriage. Dad’s not Jewish) is Jewish under Halachic law-but considers himself to be a Christian. Because Judaism goes through the mother, most likely my someday grandchildren will not be Jewish. My mother died in January, and it got me to thinking about who I am and what I really believe about God. I was born a Jew. I will die a Jew. THAT is what I am. My husband and son believe in Jesus. That’s fine-but JEWS consider Jesus to be a false messiah and Christian theology to be contrary to the Torah. I am a Jewish woman.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 9:25 PM

For you to call Christ one of many and a dime a dozen is despicable

Since when is relating a historical truth despicable? False messiahs were indeed relatively commonplace during the second Jewish commonwealth and there was more than one who called himself Yeshu or Yeshua, the Hebrew word for salvation. While the movement that Paul started was uniquely successful for a Jewish messianic movement, the simple fact is that Jewish messianic movements, and messiahs to lead them were, relatively speaking, a dime a dozen. Whether Bar Kochba, Shabtai Tzvi or Jesus of Nazareth, Jewish false messiahs have been a fairly commonplace occurrence in Jewish history.

rokemronnie on February 17, 2013 at 9:48 PM

rokemronnie on February 17, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Thank you for explaining that much better than I did.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Actually the number of Jews hidden in convents and monasteries as related in The Anchoress piece is off somewhat. It’s estimated around 4,000 Jews were hidden in THE VATICAN alone, not all across Italy as indicated. Many more Jews were able to survive hidden outside of Rome itself. 3000 Jews were hidden in the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, for instance. In general Italy protected its Jews, despite the fascist regime.

Much of Pius’ efforts are only now seeing the light of day. Another example of how he operated came to light only a few years ago when it was discovered that through a private phone call to the Hungarian dictator, Pius used his persuasive powers to prevent the deportation of 800,000 Jews. He ordered gold vessels from the Vatican treasury melted-down and sold to pay for rescue efforts. Pius even refused to eat anything not availbable to the Jews hiding below his private quarters. If they went without, he did also. One of the meanest smears in history was aimed at Pius XII, a truly saintly man.

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 10:21 PM

Since when is relating a historical truth despicable?

It’s despicable since the pretense you use to hide your malice is that you’re only stating facts. You knew your comments would be offensive. That was your intention, wasn’t it? At least be honest about it.

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 10:37 PM

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 10:37 PM

What I wrote(and rokemronnie wrote) is the Jewish point of view. Karl Magnus was pushing the old ‘Jews killed Jesus’ meme…and I was pointing out to him WHY it wasn’t true. They(Biblical times Jews) weren’t going to waste time ‘killing’ a run-off-the mill political insurgent who claimed to be God. Insurgents like Jesus WERE a dime a dozen-and for the most part-they lived-and died-with little fanfare or notice.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 11:11 PM

You were right to defend the Jewish point of view but wrong to couch it in such dismissive and insulting language. Christians take offense–as you knew they would.

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 11:57 PM

I might add–what you wrote might have been the “Jewish point of view” but that in no way equates with “historical truth.”

writeblock on February 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Not that it isn’t a historical truth that there were many false messiahs. But was Jesus of Nazareth one of them? Millions upon millions believe otherwise–and did so in the ancient world as well. And you’d be hard-pressed to prove Jesus was “a political insurgent.” Again, this is the Jewish perspective–but how much is “historical truth” and how much is apolagetics?

writeblock on February 18, 2013 at 12:13 AM

apolagetics=apologetics

writeblock on February 18, 2013 at 12:26 AM

Not that it isn’t a historical truth that there were many false messiahs. But was Jesus of Nazareth one of them?

writeblock on February 18, 2013 at 12:13 AM

Yes.

Millions upon millions believe otherwise–and did so in the ancient world as well.

That’s true for many a false “messiah”:

Like Mohamed.

Like Marx.

Like Hitler.

Like Obama. :)

Again, this is the Jewish perspective–but how much is “historical truth” and how much is apolagetics?

”A study of 150 Greek [manuscripts] of the Gospel of Luke has revealed more than 30,000 different readings… It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the New Testament in which the [manuscript] is wholly uniform.”The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, M. M. Parvis, vol. 4, pp. 594-595

That is what you base your “historical truth” upon. Frightening.

Shy Guy on February 18, 2013 at 12:40 AM

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 11:57 PM

I’ve been married to a Calvinist for 10+ years. ALL faiths believe that they own the truth. ALL faiths believe that their versions of events are the truth.
My wonderful husband the Calvinist believes that Jesus was the son of God and is a HUGE admirer of Paul. I believe that Christians are great people(I have very few Jewish friends) but that Christianity is an errant sect of Judaism that was ‘founded’ by Paul. I don’t like Paul now and I didn’t have much use for him even when I was a Christian.
As far as faith goes, me and the Mister are on opposite sides of a fence. As a result, our ‘truths’-historical and otherwise-are different and at times opposing.
Get it? Probably not.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 18, 2013 at 12:40 AM

Shy Guy on February 18, 2013 at 12:40 AM

Hey, I’m looking for a non-liberal group for Jews returinig to Judaism from Christianity, that doesn’t push orthodoxy(like Jews for Judaism does). Is there such a group?

annoyinglittletwerp on February 18, 2013 at 12:43 AM

You were right to defend the Jewish point of view but wrong to couch it in such dismissive and insulting language. Christians take offense–as you knew they would.

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 11:57 PM

Jews against rather than for Jesus have a serious, repellent problem – they just don’t know how to recognize it within themselves…

Anti-Control on February 18, 2013 at 12:50 AM

rokemronnie on February 17, 2013 at 9:48 PM

A very good recitation on why most Jews didn’t recognize the Messiah when He came…..

unclesmrgol on February 18, 2013 at 1:10 AM

unclesmrgol on February 18, 2013 at 1:10 AM

He hasn’t come.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 18, 2013 at 1:14 AM

Also-Golda was Israel’s Prime Minister. She was never Her president.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 7:33 AM

That’s ok. My historical errors with regard to Meir do not detract one jot or tittle from her sentiment. She praised Pius for doing something not even FDR was willing to do when presented with 930 Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis.

unclesmrgol on February 18, 2013 at 1:15 AM

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